Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

12 Feb 2014

Cap-Strapped Saints Cut Three Veteran Defenders

It's defense overhaul time in New Orleans, as the Saints today cut veteran defensive end Will Smith, cornerback Jabari Greer, and safety Roman Harper. Actually... that's not so much of a defensive overhaul. Smith missed last season with a torn ACL. Greer was demoted to nickelback and Harper to third safety. While Greer used to be an FO binky, I think Smith is really the name here. He could be a really nice veteran addition if there's a team out there that needs a situational pass rusher and wants to get jiggy with it.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 12 Feb 2014

12 comments, Last at 15 Feb 2014, 12:07am by Joseph

Comments

1
by Sisyphus :: Wed, 02/12/2014 - 8:55pm

This is pretty clearly just the tip of the iceberg. One suspects that they are going to have to franchise Graham given his desire to be paid like a number 1 receiver (which he is). That mans they will need to clear about ten million more or so just to get that done and sign draft picks.

2
by Insancipitory :: Wed, 02/12/2014 - 10:45pm

From lazy pun perspective, it makes a lot of sense for Will Smith to end up in Miami.

3
by justanothersteve :: Wed, 02/12/2014 - 11:06pm

Oakland with the other Men in (Silver and) Black.

9
by BucNasty :: Thu, 02/13/2014 - 4:14pm

His mother won't let him go to Philly.

11
by tomdrees :: Fri, 02/14/2014 - 11:06am

He could really help somebody pull away from the pack in the Wild Wild NFC West.

4
by andrew :: Thu, 02/13/2014 - 12:22am

Gotta save for Graham.

5
by mathesond :: Thu, 02/13/2014 - 10:28am

Saving for Graham? That's crackers!

6
by serutan :: Thu, 02/13/2014 - 12:07pm

Careful, you're starting to horn in on Will's turf - even now he's
probably pondering how to deal with you.

On topic - If my understanding the Saint's cap situation is correct, this is
probably just the first stage of the bloodletting - be interesting to see
if they can stay competitive under such circumstances.
______
Was wr

7
by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 02/13/2014 - 2:16pm

Given how bad the Saints defense has been off and on for years, it's hard to imagine that these sort of cuts are going to matter. Greer is a decent nickelback, but he's paid too much for that. Smith was always getting cut. Harper too. These guys were all part of the record-breakingly bad Saints 2012 defense.

New Orleans can be that bad without them, too.

This is a team that is competitive because Drew Brees is a great system quarterback in a great system that doesn't require him to do things he can't do. They will be an 8-8 team as long as he has a good interior line, Darren Sproles or a reasonable facsimile thereof, and someone tall on the outside.

Being more than an 8-8 team requires a bit of luck on defense, like they got this year, or actual talent on defense. None of these three represent "actual talent". They can all be replaced in the draft (replacing Smith may require a higher round pick, but that's okay).

10
by nath :: Fri, 02/14/2014 - 9:15am

Greer was very talented for a while and was a #1 CB for the team's Super Bowl run. His age just caught up to him. His knee injury was serious, too- combine it with his age and decline to date and he might never play again.

(On another note, I'm really impressed that the Payton/Loomis team made maybe the two best bargain cornerback signings of the last ~10 years in Greer and Keenan Lewis. Granted, they also signed Jason David, so it's a mixed bag.)

As a close Saints watcher, none of these moves were surprising. (It wasn't an official cut, but the Saints also announced that they would not attempt to retain Jonathan Vilma.) The younger guys were outplaying the older guys, and the older guys cost more. Pretty simple.

I think calling Drew Brees a "system QB" is really stretching the commonly understood definition of that term.

12
by Joseph :: Sat, 02/15/2014 - 12:07am

Um, do you even pay attention to the Saints???
Yes, the Saints' D in 2012 was horrible. They weren't in 2009, nor in 2011, nor last year. They definitely didn't "get lucky" this year--you don't have 2 guys with double-digit sacks by being lucky. You don't have the 4th fewest (iirc) yards allowed in the league by being "lucky." The only teams that really gashed them on D was Seattle and NE.
As to the players that were cut--Will Smith missed the whole year, being replaced by Junior Galette. Vilma played 1 game--already replaced by Hawthorne. Greer has been replaced as the #1 CB already by Keenan Lewis, and will be replaced at nickelback by Corey White. Harper has already been replaced by Vaccaro. Harper's and Greer's production can be reasonably replaced, and Smith's and Vilma's already has been. The only thing that will be missed is their leadership off the field, as Vilma's ON the field leadership role has been taken over by Lofton already.
Now, will the Saints' D be this good next year? Prob. not--just because I don't believe they will be a top-5 D, maybe not even top-10. But if they are top 1/2 of the NFL, their offense is good enough that they will make the playoffs easily.

8
by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 02/13/2014 - 2:55pm

If they really want to save money, they should cut Brees. And Sean Payton. Also all their WRs.

/bucsfan